No prizes for guessing what is this plant which looks like a bagpipe.
I cooked this fennel and onion soup tonight and I asked my hubby what the soup contained. He gave a whole string of answers : cauliflower, potato, onion. Just because it looked white and creamy. Well, why didn't he guess it right since it was a taste that he is very familar with? The taste of licorice or anise. The taste of Pastis. (My hubby loves drinking Pastis but I absolutely hate the smell of Pastis.) They call this weird-looking plant fennel in English or venkel in Dutch.
Do you know that fennel is widely used in curry powders and chinese five spice powders? Do you also know that fennel can help in lactation, digestion and prevention of baby colic? Fennel is a common galactagogue. It tends to promote the milk ejection reflex (let-down), rather than actually increasing milk supply. Fennel contains essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and volatile oils. It has been used for gastrointestinal disorders and as an expectorant, and can be a diuretic.
However, one word of caution: Oil from the fennel plant should be avoided, especially for babies. This volatile oil is toxic and can cause seizures and respiratory problems even in small doses. And just like many other galactagogues, fennel is not recommended for pregnant women!
Well, I had never let my baby drink fennel tea, although it was recommended by the nurse when my baby only did his "big business" once a week during the early months. In the pharmacies here, they do sell 2 different types of fennel tea, one for babies and one for breastfeeding mums. I suppose the fennel tea for babies would contain considerably smaller dosage of fennel seeds so as to avoid causing any undesirable side effects for babies. After giving birth, I would occasionally drink a cup of fennel tea to help with lactation and digestion and it really helped. So I think fennel is ok if you take it in moderation, just like coffee.
Anyway, back to this fennel and onion soup. It has a rich flavour from the fennel and tastes sweet, largely due to the onions and white wine. You should try it if you managed to get hold of some fennel at your supermarket.
Recipe adapted from here
Fennel and Onion Soup (Venkel en Ui Soep)
INGREDIENTS (for 3-4 persons)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 cup fennel, chopped (I used 1 whole fennel bulb)
2 tbsp flour
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste
1. In a large non-stick pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
2. Brown onion and fennel over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Slowly pour in chicken broth, dry white wine and bring to a boil, over high heat.
5. Lower heat to medium, cover the pot and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.